Marriage & Wedding Information

Flowers in Her Hair

Before George W Bush became a President, John Quincy Adams was the first son of a President to become a President himself. But while John Quincy Adams lost that first, for him and his family there are still other firsts.

One of his own firsts was that he created the very first flower garden in the grounds of the White House, generating a generation of Presidents involved in ongoing beautification of the White House grounds.

But it was Mary Catherine Hellen who brought into the Adams' Family a most interesting first.

For sometime she had flirted light-heartedly with the President's two older sons, never quite sure which one to choose. She did lean slightly to George Washington, the eldest of the boys. After all, there was always a certain amount of prestige, and often a definite financial reward in marrying the first born. But in her heart of hearts, she had to admit George Washington was not a lot of fun to be around. Only in his early twenties, up to his eyeballs in hock, he also seemed to spend a lot of time around the cocktail cabinet - and not only at the happy hour.

John, the younger son, on the other hand, appeared to be on the straight and narrow, despite managing to get himself expelled from Havard. Though, if she were to be frank with herself, he wasn't exactly averse to the cocktail cabinet either.

But dash it all, she had set her heart on a President's son for a husband, and there weren't all that many of them around.

So on 28th February 1828, John married his Mary in the White House. The room was an oval, named by posterity Blue, but brilliantly red on this occasion. At the reception Mary sparkled as, supported by President Adams, her now father-in-law, she sashayed and do-si-doed to the Virginia Reel.

Many may not have been aware that she was creating history. In the first instance, this was the first time a son of a President married in the White House. Since then quite a few President's daughters have done it, but so far no sons.

But the second first was her own desire for originality. She had delved deeply, as brides tend to do, into wedding customs and traditions, agonising about how to dress, what shoes to wear and how to adorn her hair. With one eye on what brides across the ocean deemed acceptable, she hoped to find something that had not yet become de rigueur for the English bride.

And she found it.

On her wedding day she came down the aisle in white satin and pearls - which was to be expected - and with orange blossoms in her hair which wasn't.

It would take another twelve years, and a wedding of Queen Victoria, before orange blossoms became the flowers that no self-respecting bride could do without.

Vlady, an Australian Civil Marriage Celebrant, is an author of "The Complete Book of Australian Weddings", "The Small Organisation Handbook", and an ebook, "Honeymoon! A Sizzle or a Fizzle?" which you can see on Vlady's website

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